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Conservatorship of Whitley, S175855

By FindLaw Staff on November 09, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Denial of a successful litigant's request for attorney fees under Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5 reversed

Conservatorship of Whitley, S175855, concerned a challenge to the court of appeal's denial of petitioner's request for attorney fees following successful litigation involving a challenge to the transfer of her disabled brother into a community living arrangement.  In reversing the judgment of the court of appeal, the court remanded the matter in concluding that a litigant's personal non-pecuniary motives may not be used to disqualify that litigant from obtaining fees under Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5, and here, the fact that the petitioner was subjectively motivated by her brother's welfare does not disqualify her from section 1021.5 fees.

As the court wrote: "The purpose of section 1021.5 is not to compensate with attorney fees only those litigants who have altruistic or lofty motives, but rather all litigants and attorneys who step forward to engage in public interest litigation when there are insufficient financial incentives to justify the litigation in economic terms."

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